The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

Category: Five Finds on Friday

Five Finds on Friday: Della Bennett

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Della Bennett of the personal chef service P L E N T Y, which offers weekly meal preparation, grazing boards, and intimate catering. Ask about her services at plentycville@gmail.com, sign up for her weekly menu at P L E N T Y’s website, and browse her culinary creations on Instagram at @plentycville. Bennett’s picks:

1) The Boss Wings with celery, Ranch, AND Blue Cheese at Wild Wing Cafe. “You can take the girl out of the wing joint, but you can’t take the wing joint out of the girl. To this day, The Boss wings are the only wings I’ll ever love, from the first job I ever had. At just shy of 5 feet tall, barely 18, ex-hostess turned only girl in the kitchen, I was slinging wings from the expo station. I think it was there that I learned to speak up and ask for what I wanted in life, which turns out, was equal parts boss wings on the fly AND respect from all the male cooks I looked up to. The Boss Wings are unlike any other wing you’ll find at WWC: marinated first, fried at least once, and then tossed in a top-secret spice blend while they’re still piping hot. That’s it. No sauce. A wing with no sauce? Trust me on this one. And I don’t know if it’s nostalgia or what, but I’ve always liked the ranch and blue cheese here.”

2) Cavoletti Di Bruxelles at Lampo“So, I guess I’m the girl who prefers the green over everyone’s favorite pizza. I’ve tried to recreate the Lampo salads for my clients but nothing quite compares to the real thing. The Brussels sprout salad is my pick: shaved Brussels and fennel, perfectly dressed, and then piled high with a lot of fluffy pecorino and the perfect amount of crunchy hazelnuts. Dreamy. And while I’m at it, I’ll also have the kale one that has all the crispity crunchity things on top (I know, they’re parsnips). Double INSALATE, hold the PIZZE, and a high five for every single person working there because they’re some of the coolest in town and make me feel all warm and fuzzy from the moment I walk in.”

3) Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls at Feast!. “I don’t always get the chocolate covered peanut butter balls when I go to Feast!, but when I do, I get the 6-pack. Okay, and that first part was a lie. I always always always get them. Every single time. They’re made with love, with the perfect chocolate to peanut butter ratio, by my friend, Natalie. (aka @zoonybug) and they’re ONLY available at Feast!, unless you are lucky enough to run into her at a dinner party because she always brings them and no one is ever mad about it.”

4) Panang Curry at Tara Thai. “This is the only time that tofu is my protein of choice – maybe it’s because my girlfriend is vegetarian and I don’t have a choice, maybe because it’s fried, but most likely because it is the best, most absorbent vehicle for the SAUCE. The sauce in this dish literally makes me weak in the knees and I am not too good to turn the bowl up and slurp it. Beautiful as it is creamy, a coconut milk-based broth with fresh basil and tiny pieces of peanut and bell pepper. If I’m being honest, the tofu/veggies/rice are just for looks.”

5) Charred Carrots at Oakhart Social. “Maybe it’s the fourth Smokey Rose talking, but this dish is my #1, my ride or die. It’s as if ‘carrots + ranch’ came back to school after summer break, and now they’re all grown up, with a deep voice, and a rather sophisticated mustache. From the craggy bits of charred stem (newsflash, you need to be eating this part of the carrot if you aren’t already) down to the tender sweet carrot, perfectly charred and caramelized in the wood-burning oven. If you’re dining with me, I probably already helped myself to all of the candied pecans. My bad. Another set of high fives to the overall vibe here. They get it.”

Five Finds on Friday: Gisela Carradero Rivera

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Today’s Five Find on Friday come from Gisela Carradero Rivera, Chef de Cuisine of Oakhurst Inn Cafe and Espresso Bar, where she has just introduced new fall menus. For breakfast, there are pumpkin waffles with whipped cream cheese, spiced rum syrup, and candied pumpkin seeds. But, don’t worry, the coconut grits are still there, too, though now they come with house smoked maple glazed pork belly and baked apples. For lunch, there’s a sandwich de pernil, with local braised pork, salsa criolla, and avocado aioli on an olive oil baguette. And, a harvest greens salad, with butternut squash, apples, fried Caromont Farm chevre, and lemon vinaigrette. See the full menus here. Rivera’s picks:

1) Aburi Salmon at Now & Zen. “A former chef of mine introduced me to Now & Zen back in my Keswick days and I can’t seem to stop going back, definitely a go to. The Aburi Salmon was on of his favorites and my husband and I always get it. Never changes and it is always delicious.”

2) Num Tok and Thai Tea at Monsoon Siam. “Can’t ever go wrong with cilantro, red onions, basil and all of the amazing ingredients in the Num Tok dish. Or any dish at the restaurant. Definitely my favorite Thai spot in town.”

3) House Sausage Pizza at Oakhart Social. “Let’s be honest, I love every dish I’ve ever had at that place. I think they do an amazing job! But the one thing I always get is the house sausage pizza. Love it.”

4) Mary Lou Mule at The Alley Light. “I love Mules, but the Mule at The Alley Light has been number one for me since the first time I drank it.”

5) Chocolate Praline Crunch Cake at Albemarle Baking Company. “It’s amazing. I find any reason to try and buy it for someone’s birthday although I try to eat it by myself.”

Five Finds on Friday: Francesca Black

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Francesca Black, chef of Continental Divide, which has been closed for two weeks after water damage related to Hurricane Michael, but is poised to re-open next week. Black’s picks:

1) Late Night Burger with a Salty Dog at C & O. “I usually get fixated on one aspect or one ingredient of a dish so, for me, an exceptional food experience happens when that fixation isn’t easy to discern — a temporary whirlwind sets in because it is that good. C&O late night does that for me. I am rarely free during regular dinner hours, so after work we sometimes head over for that divine burger. The crispy bun, the crunchy lettuce, that perfect first bite. It all becomes complete with their salty dog, the delicious classic with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and a salted rim. It’s a great way to end a long work day.”

2) Masala Dosa from Desi Dosa with Turmeric Lassi from Planet Earth Diversified at the City Market. “If I can make it Saturday morning, the City Market rules. I love the Southern Indian vendor Desi Dosa. They focus on letting the intensity of their spices speak for themselves in simple dishes like the masala dosa, a thin stuffed pancake. Speaking of bold spice, the turmeric lassi from Planet Earth Diversified really wakes you up and goes great with spicy the food.”

3) Octopus Tempura and Hot Sake at Now & Zen. “Although hard to choose food favorites, octopus is absolutely up there, and when tempura fried, it’s a whole different level! I could eat Now & Zen’s octopus tempura everyday — it’s perfectly fried, salted and served with spicy mayo. Then with some hot sake — enough said.”

4) Half Chicken and Green Rice with Aji Sauce at Al Carbon. “I was definitely late to the game to visit Al Carbon on 29 but a friend got some take out one night, let me taste it, and I was instantly hooked. The flavors, especially in the homemade sauces, are unbelievable. I like to get the half chicken, break it up into the green rice and cover it in aji sauce, their medium, garlicky wonder.”

5) Fried Chicken and/or Meta’s Burger with Crushed Ice Soda at Mel’s Cafe. “Of all the delicious restaurants in Charlottesville, I think Mel’s might take the cake. Mel’s cures a bad day and makes a good day that much better. I can never choose between the chicken or Meta’s burger, both of which instantly fuel a tingling sensation even at the thought. Continental is so close, too –we are very proud and lucky to have them as our neighbors!”